Plaintiff obtains 30,000 yuan in China’s first gender discrimination lawsuit

09 January 2014

The plaintiff in what is believed to be China’s first gender employment discrimination case has accepted 30,000 yuan and a formal apology from the Juren Academy in Beijing after she was refused a job as an administrative assistant.

Cao Ju (pseudonym) had demanded 50,000 yuan in damages but during a court hearing on 18 December 2013, she accepted an offer from the school to establish a 30,000 yuan fund that she could use to promote and protect the equal employment of women in China.

Prior to the court hearing, Cao had already written a letter with three other plaintiffs involved in different employment discrimination cases to the National People’s Congress, arguing for the drafting of an Employment Discrimination Law. Moreover, she is now writing a guide for individuals who face discrimination in the workplace on how to protect their legal rights and seek redress when those rights are violated.

Cao’s lawyer, Huang Yizhi, said she hoped the publicity generated by the case – it was highlighted as one of the ten most important public interest cases of 2013 – as well as the public support given to Cao during the legal proceedings would encourage other women to come forward and file more lawsuits against discriminating employers.

One of the most important aspects of the case was the lobbying efforts of civil society organizations and activists in ensuring that the court did eventually accept the case. On 26 May 2013, for example, 111 female university students from across China signed a letter to the Judicial Committee of the Beijing People’s Congress and that of the Haidian District People’s Congress demanding they make sure the courts in Beijing performed their duty and accepted Cao’s case. And on 25 July 2012, several students staged a demonstration outside the Juren Academy to protest against its alleged gender discrimination.

Cao’s case originated in 2012 when, newly graduated from a college in Beijing, she applied for a position as an administrative assistant at the Juren Academy that specified only men should apply. She was later specifically told her application had been rejected because the position was reserved for male applicants only.

Cao then approached the anti-discrimination organisation Yirenping for assistance. Yirenping, working with Huang Yizhi, helped Cao file a civil lawsuit against the Junren Academy at the Haidian District Court on 11 July 2012 for the violation of her equal right to work.

When the court did not respond within the seven day limit, Cao sought to file the case with several other courts, as well as the Labour Inspectorate in Haidian. The Labour Inspectorate notified her in November 2012 that since the academy had subsequently changed the recruitment notice there was no longer any discrimination case to answer. Cao then applied for an administrative review from the Beijing Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, which upheld the original decision of the Labour Inspectorate. Cao appealed to the Haidian District Court, accusing the bureau of failing to fulfil its statutory duty. The administrative appeal failed but the Court finally accepted the civil case against Juren on 10 September 2013, more than a year after the case was first filed.

During the court hearing on 18 December, the school’s principal admitted that Junren had made a mistake in recruiting only men but argued that no gender discrimination was intended. Junren’s lawyer argued that since 78 percent of the academy’s employees were female, the school was in desperate need for male employees to take charge of the physically demanding tasks in the office. Nevertheless, the academy agreed to a mediated settlement in which Cao would receive 30,000 yuan and an apology.

For more information about employment discrimination in China and gender discrimination in particular, please see CLB’s study on discrimination in our website’s resource centre.

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